No-trailers policy at transfer stations draws criticism

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A man unloads his trash while visiting the Hilo dump on Tuesday.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A sign warns that trailers and dump bed trucks are prohibited at the Hilo dump Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Trailers are, however, permitted at the nearby Sort Station.

Trailers will continue to be banned at county transfer stations for safety reasons, despite complaints from residents and county officials.

Last week, the county Department of Environmental Management imposed a prohibition of all trailers and dump beds at any Big Island transfer stations — including the one at the Hilo landfill — limiting access only to conventional sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans and other noncommercial vehicles.

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Only two sites, the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill and the East Hawaii Regional Sort Station, remain open to trailers and dump beds.

The new rule prompted considerable complaints from rural residents, who are no longer able to efficiently manage their garbage, said Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder during a Tuesday meeting of the County Council Committee on Regenerative Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management.

“I’ll be honest, I think the rule is garbage,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said. “I think it has to be taken back.”

The rule was devised at the end of the Harry Kim administration after a study by the Department of Environmental Management, said department Director Ramzi Mansour.

That study determined that none of the island’s transfer stations are designed or intended for trailers, which are unwieldy in the generally limited space available at those facilities.

Solid Waste Division Chief Greg Goodale said the primary safety concern is the potential for trailers to strike other cars, people or facility infrastructure. Because of the tight confines of the facilities, no size of trailer is acceptably safe to use, he said.

However, Goodale told the Tribune-Herald on Wednesday that users of the transfer stations have complained about trailers for years.

“The trailer thing was, across the board, one of the biggest issues people had with the stations,” he said. “People took too much time to get into position and unload — they took too much space.”

Given the heavy traffic the transfer stations regularly receive, Goodale said it is preferable to prohibit trailers so users can come and go as quickly as possible.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Mansour said three of the county’s 22 transfer stations could be reconfigured to allow for the use of trailers, but added that such a project would be too expensive to be worth it.

Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder was adamant that the rule should be reverted, saying that residents who relied on trailers to transport their waste are now having to pack garbage into a personal vehicle to dispose of it.

Other council members agreed. Kohala Councilman Tim Richards pointed out that the county has a very high ratio of pickup truck users, which corresponds with a high number of trailer users who are impacted by the issue.

But Mansour said safety remains his department’s primary concern.

“I understand the hardship for people, but we won’t sacrifice safety for convenience,” Mansour said.

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Mansour said he will consider alternative rules for trailers, but said any new rules must first follow a process to determine they are safe to implement.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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